I'm ready to feel better this year. I want more energy, less pain, and better sleep. You, too?
So let's just go ahead and go to bed early, exercise six days a week, cut all the junk out of our diets, meditate daily, and install that whole-house water filter, shall we? By January 31?
Wait – don't give up on this article. I was kidding. What I meant to say was: let's get crystal clear on the ONE doable thing we can each commit to. The One Thing that will help us get the MOST improvement in our health.
When you choose One Thing that you know will truly help you feel better, getting healthy starts to seem doable. The clarity feels great. Determination comes more easily.
I want to help you make this easy, and rewarding. Coming up is some insight, based on Chinese medicine wisdom and my experience helping people one-on-one. We'll go over five major wellness changes you can make in your life, and how to know which is the most important one for you.
To begin, ask yourself three questions. Jot down your answers.
What symptom (or two) is bothering me the most? What health challenge has the biggest impact on my life?
What do I already know makes this symptom worse (a strain it would benefit me to remove), and what makes this symptom better (a support I can build on)?
What would be the EASIEST area of my life for me to change right now to get healthier? Or, if it's easier to answer this question, what would be the hardest area of my life to change?
Your answers should give you a helpful place to begin your exploration of these five healthy changes that could be your One Thing:
Choice #1: EXERCISE
This One Thing will serve you best if you are dealing with Qi stagnation. That's Chinese-medicine-speak for stuckness, stress, and blockage of flow. How do you know if you have Qi stagnation?
One clue is that you feel better with exercise! Physical movement resolves that stagnation directly, and relieves your body of blockages. For those of you with pain that goes down after you start moving around, or you who feel more energy and mental clarity after a workout – exercise is important.
Another clue is that your symptoms are worse when you're stressed. What we call “stress” almost always means Qi stagnation is happening. Exercise will help relieve the mental and physical sensation of stress, AND relieve the harmful effects stress has on your body.
Choice #2: MEDITATION / QUIET TIME
Most of us have heard about the benefits of meditation, and how it helps with a variety of illnesses. Like exercise, meditation helps when stress is a big factor in your dis-ease. But it's different from exercise, too.
Rather than as a way to deal with stagnation, I value meditation (and other mindful practices such as yoga or breathing exercises) for folks who need help settling their Heart fire. That's a Chinese medicine term for a group of happenings in the body including restlessness, racing thoughts, fast talking, and constant activity in general. Meditation might be top of your list if you spend a lot of time in that type of state.
Choice #3: DIET CHANGE (CUTTING OUT THE JUNK)
Cutting inflammatory (or “dampening”) foods out of the diet helps almost everyone, but it tends to REALLY help if you're dealing with respiratory, digestive, and/or immune system issues. If those are your main concerns, look into cleansing, anti-inflammatory, or “elimination diets” that help you determine which foods are causing YOU trouble. (I can help you out with this one-on-one. It's something people really love working through in my coaching programs.)
If you want to try a little Chinese medicine assessment on yourself, look at your tongue in the mirror. If you see a thick white or yellowish coat and/or “scallops” along the sides (imprints from your teeth), cleaning up your diet should help you feel a whole lot better.
If your answers to question 2 above involved food (as in, “better when I eat light in the evening; worse when I have pizza”), that's another vote for making your One Thing be the removal of stressor foods from your diet.
You can break this “One Thing” down further if you want to: just cut One Thing out of your diet for now (like, only dairy products, or only cane sugar). You can take it in stages to make your changes more doable and sustainable.
Choice #4: SLEEP
Sometimes I've got to state the obvious: If you feel better when you get more sleep, you need to get more sleep.
WAY too many of us are chronically sleep-deprived. If your symptoms are worse when you're tired and better when you're rested, this suggests you have more Qi deficiency (as opposed to stagnation). Rest and restoration are key for you.
If you've overworked and/or underslept for months or years, or if you've been through a major stress or trauma, you might be truly exhausted. Allow yourself to rest.
And if you're someone who can hardly stand to stop before your to-do list is done and you tend to stay up late Accomplishing Things – then put “get 8 hours of sleep” on your list, and check it off in the morning! It's a legit thing “To Do”!
We all need sleep. It doesn't take much googling to see how much research links getting enough sleep with health, and sleep-deprivation with health problems both minor and major. For some of us, though, increasing and optimizing our hours of sleep is the One Thing that matters most.
You can support healthy sleep in many ways. Two of my favorites are drinking calming herbal teas in the evening, and self-massage with acupressure. For stubborn insomnia, acupuncture and herbal medicine are outstanding.
Choice #5: MENTAL/EMOTIONAL HEALING
You'll know if this is your One Thing. Everyone's got emotional healing to do that would help them get healthier, but only you know when the time is right to dive deeper into yours.
I'll invite you to reflect for a moment on whether your negative thought patterns, limiting beliefs, emotional baggage, past trauma, or bottled up anger and grief are a big force in your life. If they are, and if you're ready for this, I'd encourage you to develop a daily practice for mental/emotional health.
This might be journaling. I mean, simply telling the truth on paper is a powerful thing. It might be writing down everything you feel angry about (old or new, “justifiable” or not), and then burning the paper. You could learn Emotional Freedom Technique (“tapping”) and choose something to release every evening. Maybe you want to walk down one of my favorite avenues of mental/emotional healing and growth: working with your dreams. Move your grief. Seek out a therapist. Explore all of the above.
There we go.
Those are five big changes that often show up on the “get healthier” list. Maybe now you have a gut feeling about which you want to commit to. Look back at your answers to the three questions I asked at the beginning of the article. What's becoming clearer for you now?
Whatever you choose to start with, practice it until that becomes a habit. Focus on that one aspect of your health until you go from, for example, “I'm really trying to go to bed earlier and get more sleep,” to, “I always start winding down by 9:30 and fall asleep by 10:30; it would feel really strange not to.” Then, you can build on your One Thing with your next thing.
For any of you who feel like you need to do ALL five of those things ASAP, just start now with the one that will be EASIEST. Go for the least effortful, quickest win. You'll move on to the next as soon as you're ready.
Ready to commit to this whole getting healthy project and want some help? Check out my programs or book a Free Discovery Call and let's talk about how I can support you feeling fantastic so you can do all those things you're most excited about!